In the department of Food and Nutrition Services at Royal University Hospital (RUH) and St. Paul’s Hospital (SPH), January brought challenges with increased demand for patient meal services.

But midway through Saskatoon Health Region’s Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge, patient meal service is a lot calmer. 

That’s because the demand for meal trays has gone down.

“At RUH, we are preparing 40 fewer trays per meal now,” said Dena Webb-Listwin, Manager of RUH Patient Food Services, on Thursday. “We were preparing on average 383 meals per meal period.”

RR-2015-02-13-Food-Nutrition “It was very stressful,” said Margaret Buekert, an employee in Food and Nutrition Services at RUH who works on the tray line.  “You could feel it when you went home – you were more exhausted than ever. You couldn’t tell if you were going forward or backward.”

Morale was low, Buekert added, with people working more hours than normal, and working harder during those hours.

The drop in demand, which began the first week of February along with the Challenge, has been noticeable for staff.

“Our patient trays are done earlier, and the stress is not quite so bad.  It’s fewer trays, so it’s appreciated, very much so,” Buekert said.

Over at St. Paul’s Hospital, they too were experiencing high numbers for patient meal trays in December and January, preparing an average of 255 trays per meal period – among their highest ever.

“We were starting to feel the service pressures,” stated Lynne Fitzsimmons Manager SPH Patient Food Services.  “At the end of January, we saw an increase in safety incidents for staff and some errors in meal tray deliveries for patients.”

That shows just how busy the SPH Food and Nutrition staff were, as errors in the department are rare.

“In the first seven days of February, the meal tray count went down to an average of 226,” Fitzsimmons noted, “and our Safety Wall is showing no errors or no safety incidents.”

Food and Nutrition staff are relieved that their workloads have returned to a more balanced and sustainable pace.

“It’s a much calmer pace to work at,” Fitzsimmons said.  “Our tray assembly lines were running longer and we were facing some short staffing situations.”

The hallway in the units are calm and clear and has made delivering meal trays easier, which improves the atmosphere for everyone at work.

For more stories and information about the Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge, visit